Category Archives: Creative Gift Giving

Three Charming Little Easter Decor Ideas

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Easter falls in March this year, so it’s not too soon for me to share three fun little decor and gift ideas.

1.  Tiny Little Eggshell Planters and Vases

I love it when I can combine a couple of ideas and get something new.  The March edition of Martha Stewart Living had a beautiful little one-page article on using the shells of goose, turkey, and duck eggs to make mini vases and baskets.  Then I saw something on Instagram about starting seedlings in eggshells. Those ideas got me thinking.

I remembered the eggshells that I had painted black as part of my Haunted Hatchlings Halloween scene.  They looked good and, because of a little trick I had discovered, they were also crack and shatter resistant.

I decided to try a variation of those eggshells to make tiny little planters and vases for Easter using the shells of the brown eggs that I had on hand.

DIY Easter Decor: Egg shell vases and planters.

Cracking the Eggs

So for a couple of mornings, when making breakfast, I saved the eggshells. I placed each egg in a shot glass and cracked it carefully around the top with a knife so most of the shell would be left intact but I could still lift off the top and empty the egg easily.

DIY Easter Decor: Egg Shell Planters and Vases step one: cracking the egg

I didn’t worry too much about getting a very straight break since the uneven, broken edges add charm.

Coloring the Shells

I used a gel food coloring (Betty Crocker Classic Gel Food Colors) to color the eggshells.  Since they were brown shells, the color did not turn out as clear and bright as they would have with white eggs, but that didn’t matter because this was just the base coat.  The interior of the shells turned out bright and pretty.  To add to the variety, I left a few shells undyed.

DIY Easter Decor: Egg Shell Planters and Vases, step two dying the egg

Adding Some Sparkle

I wanted my tiny vases to have some elegance and polish so they could be used even after Easter.  So I thinly coated the exterior of each shell with metallic craft paint (Dazzling Metallics “Dark Patina” and Martha Stewart Crafts Multi-Surface Metallic “Gold”), and then I squirted them lightly with water from a spray bottle.  I let the water run down the sides of the shells to create a mottled finish.

DIY Easter Decor: Egg Shell Planters and Vases, step three: adding some sparkle

Reinforcing the Shells

To make the shells crack resistant, I painted two coats of Mod Podge on the outside of each shell and one coat on the inside.  Although the shells were noticeably more stable after this, I still had to use care when working with them.

Making the Shells Stand Upright

Now I wanted the shells to stand upright.  So far I had only used materials that I already had around the house, so I wanted to continue doing that.

I am a bit of a vintage button weirdo, and for some strange reason I tend to hoard them.  So I glued vintage buttons to the bottom of each shell as a base.

DIY Easter Decor: Egg shell vases and planters, step 5: Adding a base

Adding Flowers and Tiny Plants

This was the funnest part of this fun project.  I used a small teaspoon to fill some of the shells with pre-moistened soil, and then I carefully planted tiny succulents.

DIY Easter Decor: Egg Shell Planters and Vases, step 6: planting the tiny plants

Other shells became vases for tiny flowers from my garden: Primroses and violets.  Of course I knocked a vase over by accident. It didn’t break, but I did discover that the food coloring does bleed into the vase water, so just a warning about that.

DIY Easter Decor: Egg Shell Planters and Vases, step six, adding the water and flowers

Table Decor and a Gift

I’m planning to have one on each place setting and then let my guests take them home.

DIY Easter Decor: Egg Shell Planters and Vases

 

DIY Easter Decor: Egg Shell Planters and Vases

2.  DIY Dinner Napkins: A Simple Project Just Got Simpler

Sometimes to get the table decor I want for a special occasion like Easter, I have to make my own dinner napkins.  And recently I decided to make some sets of dinner napkins to give as gifts. This is such a simple task:  Measure, cut, and hem the fabric. How could it get any simpler?

By eliminating the measuring and cutting.

While at the fabric store looking for an easy-care cotton fabric to use for my dinner napkin project, I found myself standing in front of the fabric quarters:  Those pre-cut pieces of cotton calico fabric that come in a wide variety of colors and patterns and measure 18 X 21 inches – just right for a dinner napkin.

DIY Easter Decor: Making an easy dinner napkin

But could I really just buy the fabric quarters and hem them?  It seemed too easy, so to make sure I asked a fabric store employee. She confirmed that since they were 100% cotton, they would indeed work as dinner napkins.

Solid-colored fabric quarters work best because they are double-sided.  With most patterned fabric quarters, the pattern only appears on one side and the opposite side is blank.

To iron, pin, and hem them took me less than 15 minutes per napkin, so making a set of six took under an hour and a half.

DIY Easter Decor: Making an easy dinner napkin

A set of six dinner napkins makes a great hostess gift.  I made two sets in one afternoon and bundled them using lace ribbon and vintage buttons.

fabric quarters - finished napkins1 wm

And I still made them with my own two little hands – even if I did take a shortcut.

3.  A Sweet Yet Practical Hostess Gift

You may not have time to make your own hostess gifts, but you can still give something handmade.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I love the soft and whimsical dishtowels that Cousin Lolli makes in her fabric studio in Fort Bragg.

For Easter, it’s hard to find anything more adorable than her carrot and bunny dishtowels. She created them using images from vintage children’s books.

Adorable handmade carrot and bunny dishtowel by Lolli Jacobsen, available on Etsy

Dishtowels are always a wonderful hostess gift, and they have the added bonus of being packable and unbreakable.  Most of Lolli’s dishtowels can be found on Etsy.


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A Look Inside Cousin Lolli’s Studio

UPDATE:  April 26, 2017:  I am sad to announce to that the old building housing Cousin Lolli’s studio caught fire today.  No one was hurt, but Lolli and her studio mates are still regrouping from this loss – and will be for some time.  Her community has been very supportive, and there is a GoFundMe page for Lolli and her studio mates.

Chris and I feel so fortunate that we were able to visit the studio before this tragedy.  Lolli took us through the steps she takes to make her beautiful silkscreen creations.  I hope you enjoy our “ride along,” below.


Chris and I recently took a road trip down the Oregon coast and into California.  We pulled our vintage Airstream trailer along the winding highways that lead to Fort Bragg, where Cousin Lolli lives.

Lolli is a textile artist and, among other things, she silkscreens whimsical dishtowels.  I am a bit of a textile junkie and I have always loved her dishtowels.  They are beautiful and practical little works of art.

Chickens towel closeup - silkscreened dish towels
A closeup from Lolli’s “Chickens” towel

So I was thrilled when she offered not only to show me her fabric studio but to let me help her and observe the process of making the towels.

Fort Bragg Fabric Studio
This is where it all happens! The sign was created by Lolli’s studio mate, Jacob.

How Lolli Designs Her Towels

Lolli often works with other local artists when creating the designs for her towels.  Many of her towels feature images, for example heads of lettuce, with whimsical calligraphy winding around them. The calligraphy quotes literature, song lyrics, and old sayings.  Some of the quotes are thought-provoking, (one on the “Roses” towel reads, “Heaven help the roses when the bombs begin to fall – heaven help us all”) while other quotes are playful (as on the “Carrots” towel, “Cares melt when you kneel in the garden”).  Local artist Emily Whittlesey finds the quotes and does all the calligraphy.

The Fun Begins!

On this day, Lolli was making her “Lettuce” towels.

Silk Screened Dish Towels

With me to help her and Chris to observe, the whole process probably took her twice as long as usual.  But she was a good sport.

Lolli starts with a quality product.  The blank towels that she silkscreens are 100% cotton muslin, made in Bangladesh.  They are very soft and absorbent and become even more so with each washing.

I was trusted with ironing each towel before it was silkscreened.

Ironing towels
That’s me ironing the towels. Lolli is setting up her work table.

The Screens

A different screen is needed for each color used, so the lettuce towels would be a two-screen process.  The first screen was for the wording that would wind around the heads of lettuce, and the second screen was for the lettuce images.

screen lettuce lettering
This is the screen for the lettering

How silkscreens are made:  Though called silkscreens, the screens are actually either polyester or nylon. To create her screens, Lolli places her images on architects vellum, which is then placed onto a blank silkscreen using a light-sensitive emulsion.  The screen and vellum go through an exposure process, creating something similar to a photo negative. Black images on the vellum are washed away, exposing the mesh of the screen where paint can pass through during production.

The Process

I had no idea how much work went into the actual production of these towels.  Lolli uses a huge work table topped with industrial felt and covered with painter’s canvas coated in wax.

The Results

During production, Lolli sometimes blends two or more paint colors in her screens. Since those paints intermix differently every time she makes a screen pass, the first towel in a batch can be very different from the last towel.  The result is that each towel is truly one of a kind.

Chicken towels - silk screened dish towels
Notice the subtle color differences between these two “Chickens” towels.
Roses towel - silk screened dish towels
And the color variations on these two “Roses” towels

To get a vintage look, she might use images from old books that are out of copyright, like she did for this sweet “Carrots” towel – one of my favorites.

bunny closeup - silk screened dish towels

In designing her “Lettuce” towel, she used images from vintage seed packets.

The beauty is in the details in this classic “Roses” towel.

Roses towel closeup
Closeup of a border design on the “Roses” towel

Needless to stay, I went a bit crazy at the fabric studio and stocked up on Lolli’s dishtowels.  I think they are the perfect hostess or housewarming gift – really a great gift for any occasion.  After all, who doesn’t need a dishtowel?

Silk screened dish towels are a perfect hostess gift

I also enjoy using them as shop towels in my greenhouse.

Crows towel - silk screened dish towels
The “Crows” towel.

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If you are ever in Fort Bragg, you will find Lolli’s dishtowels in several of the shops in the main part of town.  And now Lolli also has her towels on Etsy under Mendocino Textiles.  She is adding more towels to her Etsy store as they are available.


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Cute Rustic Burlap Plant Wraps

When I’m giving a small plant as a gift, I often use this easy burlap wrap idea to “pretty up” the ordinary plastic container that the plant comes in.  It’s an attractive and budget-friendly alternative to a ceramic overpot.

Budget-Friendly Materials

First I choose a plant in a square, 4-inch container.  I can usually get away with purchasing an inexpensive starter plant from a home and garden store.  As long as the plant is attractive, that’s all that matters.

Then I just scare up some burlap, heavyweight plastic, cotton lace trim (sold by the yard at fabric stores), vintage buttons, and a needle and thread.

supplies

It also helps to have an empty 4-inch pot to use as a template/placeholder while making these wraps.

Rounding up the supplies is really the most time-consuming part.  The rest is very simple.

The How-To

I cut a circle of burlap in a 10-inch diameter.  To make it easy, I just trace around a 10-inch dinner plate.  I know it seems counterintuitive to wrap a square pot with a round piece of fabric, but I have found it works well.

Then I cut an 8-inch circle of the plastic using a round salad plate as a template.  The plastic will serve as a liner so water from the pot drains into the plastic instead of soaking the burlap (although, as a word of caution, the pot could leak even with the plastic liner).

I center the plastic on top of the burlap and the pot on top of the plastic as shown in the photo.

burlap, plastic and pot

Then I fold the burlap up on each of the four sides, securing each side with a binder clip.  Large paper clips would probably work just as well.

clips holding burlap

With the fabric held in place with the clips, it’s easy to wrap the lace trim around the burlap, folding the burlap attractively at the corners as I go.

Then I cut the trim to size, pin it in place, and remove the clips and the plastic pot.

I overlap ends of the trim a little bit and secure them to the burlap with a few stitches.  Then I stitch a button over the trim to cover the seam.

Then I can set the plant into the burlap wrap, being careful to keep the plastic in position.

Baby tears in burlap wrapper
Baby tears in burlap wrapper with cotton lace trim and vintage button

And the cute, rustic little plant wrap is finished.  I recently made several of these, and it didn’t take much time.

Lots of Possibilities

This wrap has many variations.  Say you don’t want to sew on a button or do any stitching.  Here is a very simple alternative.

Calibrachoa in burlap
Calibrachoa in burlap

Or maybe you want something prettier than clear plastic as a lining.   Try using colored cellophane cut in a square instead of a circle.

burlap and cellophane
Burlap and cellophane pot wrapper

This way, the cellophane shows over the burlap and adds a touch of color.

And for a cute look that any gardener can relate to, try wrapping the burlap with garden twine instead of ribbon.

geranium in burlap
Geranium start in a burlap/twine wrapper

The burlap might fray a little where it’s been cut.  I never bother to do anything about this except remove any loose fibers.  Since these wraps look slouchy and imperfect anyway, I think the fraying just adds to the charm.

Burlap-wrapped plants are a great gift for any holiday.  They are also an easy hostess gift and make nice guest gifts for a party or reception.

 


Resources:

Cutting burlap is easy with my Fiskars fabric scissors.  Amazon offers a wide range of Fiskars fabric scissors and shears.

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Sweet Hearts – DIY Valentine Gift Bags

It’s All in the Presentation

Any gift is more interesting with a nice presentation.  These sweet little lined gift bags are a great way to present your Valentine’s Day gift to an adult or a child.  They are great for holding candy, toys, flowers, jewelry, and even wine.  And they are something that can be used even after Valentine’s Day.

They are easy to make if you have access to a sewing machine with a free arm and moderate sewing skills.

Valentine gift wrapping idea: Fabirc heart back

 Put Your Own Spin On It

You can make the bag any size you want, embellish it however you want, with lace, buttons, faux flowers, faux fur. Or change up the color of the lining or use a patterned fabric.  The variations are endless.

The How-To

What You Will Need

  • Red fabric (A heavier fabric works best.  I used leftover upholstery fabric.)
  • A lightweight lining fabric (I used white muslin but get creative if you wish!)
  • Coordinating threads
  • Coordinating webbing for the handles
  • Construction paper
  • Fabric pencil
  • Scissors
  • Access to a sewing machine with a free arm

What You Hopefully Won’t Need

  • A seam ripper

Why the Lining?

Linings are an elegant finishing touch.  Added to these bags, they just say “I love you enough to go this extra step.”  But it’s an easy addition as you will see.

Cut the Fabric

Cut a heart template from heavy construction paper to use as a pattern.  My heart was 11″ wide by 11″ long.  To allow for the seams, cut the heart about an inch larger than you want it to be.

Using your pattern, cut two identical heart shapes with the red fabric and two with the lining fabric.

You will have a total of four raw fabric hearts, all the same size.

Stitching the Pieces

Put the “outside” (right sides) of the red fabric pieces together, facing each other, so that you have the “wrong side” out, and sew down along the right-hand side of the fabric, down to the bottom, then continue up the left side, leaving the top unstitched.  Backstitch at the beginning and end of the stitching for extra support.

My lining did not have a right and wrong side, but if yours does, sew it the same way as described above except leave a small opening on the left hand side unstitched.  This opening should be large enough for you to get your hand through later to pull the bag right-side out.

Valentine Gift Wrapping Idea:  Heart bag under construction
The faint blue line between the pins on the white lining fabric was the part I left unstitched to pull the fabric through later.

Adding the Handles

Turn the red fabric right-side-out so that the raw fabric edges are inside.  Securely stitch the handles on either side about an inch from the top of the bag.  The free arm feature on your sewing machine works best for this.

First I folded under the ends of each handle by about 3/4″ so the raw ends were not visible.   My handles were 18″ each.  You can scale yours to fit the size of your bag.

Valentine Gift Wrapping Idea:  Heart bag straps pinned
Handles pinned and ready to be attached.

Now turn the bag inside-out and pin the handles down and out of the way, making sure the pin heads are on the “wrong” side of the fabric.  Otherwise, you will have trouble taking the pins out later.

Valentine Gift Wrapping Idea:  Heart bag
Reverse side of the bag. The pins are holding the handles down inside the bag.

So now the bag is inside-out and your handles are pinned down inside the bag, but the pinheads are on the outside.

Bringing It All Together

Now take the lining, reverse it so that the raw edges are on the inside, and insert it into the red fabric part, which is still inside-out.

Valentine Gift Wrapping Ideas:  Heart bag, how it fits together
Lining being inserted into the bag.

Push it in until it fits snugly and the seams line up.  It can be a little difficult to work around the handles, but just take your time.  If everything looks wrong and backwards at this point, you are probably doing it right.

Carefully pin the lining and the red fabric together at the top, raw edges up.  Be sure to line up the seams.  Stitch the red fabric to the lining following the heart contours.  Work you way all around the top of the bag in this manner, backstitching at the seams.

You will need the free arm feature on the sewing  machine for this.  If your bag is too small to fit onto the free arm, you will have to stitch by hand.

Getting it Right-Side Out

Okay, if you’ve come this far it’s time for the magic.  Remove the pins holding the handle down.

Then reach into the bag, put your hand through the little opening you left in the lining, and pull the red fabric through it until everything is right-side out.

After that, you can stitch up the hole in the lining.

Then tuck the lining down into the bag and carefully iron the top until everything is even.  Be sure to test the iron with scrap pieces of all fabrics first to make sure the iron won’t damage anything.

It takes a little time to get everything pushed out, tucked in, and straightened out and for the heart shape to emerge.

The Finishing Touches

I played around with adding vintage buttons to my bag, but in the end I kept it simple.  I just added a gift tag with a vintage button and used a piece of old linen instead of tissue paper inside.

Valentine Gift Wrapping Ideas:  Heart bag finished

There are so many things you can do to make your bag unique, so enjoy and have fun with your creation!


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